Western Digital (WD) has been around since 1970 and is one of the world’s largest hard disk drive manufacturers. I have two Western Digital external hard drives for backing up my computer and they have been great! But WD makes other devices including media streaming devices, which they have had a lot of success with. I recently had the opportunity to test out the WD TV Live Media Player, which is their third generation device so they have continually improved it. Since I already have an Apple TV and a Roku device, I was able to compare the WD TV Live to its competitors, and it did extremely well.
Streaming content through your HDTV is a great way to convert it to a Smart TV and get a lot more entertainment value out of it. In my recent primer on how to stream content to your TV,the WD TV Live HD Media streamer is a great option. My recent test of all its attributes confirmed that.
Media streaming devices have all tended to be very small and compact, and the WD TV Live unit is no exception. Like its competitors, it will fit nicely in the palm of your hand so it won’t take up much space and is extremely easy to add to your entertainment system. One additional feature of the WD TV Live unit that I really liked is the wall mounts to place it on the wall behind your HDTV so it is nicely hidden.
WD TV Live is extremely light, more so than I expected but the case seems well made using quality materials. I would say that it isn’t up to quite the standard of materials that Apple TV or Roku is, but it is not far behind and it certainly is more than adequate. Another design feature I liked about the WD TV Live that isn’t in the other devices is a USB port in both the front and back of the unit. The front one is very convenient to plug in media that you want to play on your TV or plug in a wired keyboard to make searches a lot easier than managing the remote through the alphabet.
The remote control has a lot more buttons than most media players which is actually nice because it adds some simple functionality that makes it easy to use. For instance it has a blue “home” button that takes you directly to the home screen. It also has previous page and next page buttons that are very convenient. Lots of useful buttons that are well organized so it is very easy and intuitive to figure out. The remote also has a very soft-touch plastic underneath for a much nicer feel on the hands – a very nice touch (no pun intended).
In addition to the 2 USB ports, in front and in back, the Western Digital TV Live Media Player has an HDMI port for connecting to your TV and an optical audio out to connect a better quality sound either to your TV or surround sound receiver. It even comes with a composite video cable if you have an older TV that doesn’t have an extra HDMI connection. The unit will connect to your home network using WiFi, which is nice and convenient, but I would recommend using the Ethernet port on the device and using a wired connection if it isn’t too much trouble. This will ensure that you always have good connectivity and less risk of slow loading of movies. Having said that, I used the WiFi my testing of the device and it performed without any hitches.
I found set up of the WD TV Live media streamer to be dead easy, almost plug and play. Just connect it to your TV using the HDMI connection, connect it to power, and turn it on using the remote. A simple menu appears on your TV that guides you on setting it up and connecting to your home network. The entire process of setting it up was probably close to 5 minutes until I was ready to start streaming content on my HDTV.
Like most media players there is a lot of content available. I would say very similar to what you will find with Roku and more than Apple TV. It is easy to find all the usual suspects like Netflix, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Vimeo, Picasa, etc. But there is a lot more specialized content that you can find for just every category that I could think of – news, health, games, religion, kids, classics, etc. The ability to find content through the device, free and fee based, is plenty but if that isn’t enough you can play your own local files because the WD TV Live will support a lot of different formats like MOV, MP4, MKV, XVID, FLAC, AVI, and ISO files. This is a very nice feature so you don’t have the hassle of having to convert personal content to the right format to play on your media player.
There is an app for just about everything, and Western Digital isn’t going to disappoint as they have a free app for your IOS or Android Smartphone or tablet that will work well with the WD TV live unit. The app is a remote control, which I like because I tend to lose remotes but I never lose my tablet and Smartphone (or at least not that often). The app is convenient and easy to use and makes the streaming experience easier.
Even though I was using my WiFi to connect to my home network rather than a wired connection the streaming was fast, with not much extra buffering at all. The clarity of picture was excellent in full 1080p HD, and it remained smooth throughout my streaming experience. I connected the sound using an optical cable to my surround sound system and the quality of sound was as good as any of my other devices – powerful and clear. Overall the performance of the WD TV Live Media Player made it a winner in my book, especially considering the price. It is a very inexpensive way to improve the entertainment capability of your big flat screen high-definition TV. It plays a plethora of Internet content or whatever files you personally want to throw at it. For the money, it is excellent value and will stand up nicely to its bigger name competitors.